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Lack of Broadband Creates a Digital Divide

Could Community Broadband Become A Solution?

Residents in Wilson County have some of the best internet in the nation.

That’s because in 2008 the city of Wilson established its own broadband service, called Greenlight Community Broadband, and began wiring the entire county with fiber optic cables.

“When the pandemic hit, we were able to prioritize getting our teachers and students connected,” said City Manager Grant Goings.

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Internet infrastructure is not in some of NC communities because it is too expensive for private companies to install the connectivity.

The farther homes are spread apart, the lower the return on investment and in WNC, we have mountains and rough terrain that further hinder cost-effective connectivity.

So some cities and counties across the country have decided to build broadband as a utility for residents, just like water or power, including Wilson and Salisbury.

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While the Biden administration’s American Jobs Plan aims to fix this with a goal of providing coverage to every household, prioritizing smaller groups like Greenlight, that doesn’t help in North Carolina.

After Greenlight was built, the telecommunications industry pushed through a state law prohibiting any more cities from building their own internet networks.

Read more about Wilson’s endeavors and how big telecom’s fought back.

Kaplan, E., & Messenger, H. (2021, June 16). Some North Carolina residents still fight for internet access. NBC News; NBC News.

Advocacy Broadband funding Digital Inclusion Economic Development Lamar Owen PARI Transylvania

Broadband as a Rural Utility

REA Brought Electricity to Rural America

The availability of power can be taken for granted. As Lamar Owen, Chief Technology Officer at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI) relates to the Rural Electrification Act (REA).

The Rural Electrification Act of 1936, enacted on May 20, 1936, provided federal loans for the installation of electrical distribution systems to serve isolated rural areas of the United States.

The funding was channeled through cooperative electric power companies, hundreds of which still exist today.[1] These member-owned cooperatives purchased power on a wholesale basis and distributed it using their own network of transmission and distribution lines. The Rural Electrification Act was also an attempt made by FDR’s New Deal to deal with high unemployment.


Rural Broadband Implementation Act

Shouldn’t broadband also become something similar to REA?

A Rural Broadband Implementation Act?

Lamar Owen discusses the topic and how it relates to rural and mountainous Transylvania County, NC in the video below.

Broadband as a Utility in Rural America

Broadband at PARI Series

PARI Website